Tag Archives: Joseph Papp

Exclusive LA Revival of Larry Kramer’s ‘The Normal Heart’ Opens Sept 21 at the Fountain Theatre

Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup.

Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup at first rehearsal.

Fueled by love, anger, hope and pride, a circle of friends struggles to contain a mysterious disease ravaging New York’s gay community. Simon Levy directs the exclusive Los Angeles revival of Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking drama about public and private indifference to the onset of the AIDS crisis, and one man’s fight to awaken the world to its urgency. The Normal Heart opens Sept. 21 at the Fountain Theatre.

Not seen in L.A. for over 16 years, The Normal Heart remains one of the theater’s most powerful evenings ever. It was so ahead of its time that many of the core issues it addresses — including gay marriage, a broken healthcare system and, of course, AIDS — are just as relevant today as they were when it first premiered nearly 30 years ago.

“What’s wonderful about this play is that it’s a passionate reminder that we must always keep fighting for what we believe in, that we must never let injustice go unanswered,” says Levy.

Bill Brochtrup

Bill Brochtrup

Loosely autobiographical, The Normal Heart takes place in New York City in 1981. Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and LA Weekly Award-winning actor Tim Cummings (Rogue Machine’s The New Electric Ballroom), stars as writer and activist Ned Weeks, whose doctor (LADCC award-winning Lisa Pelikan, The New Electric Ballroom) tells him he must convince everyone he knows to stop having sex or they’ll die. The play follows Ned and a core group of friends Verton R. Banks (NAACP Theater Award-winner for Butterflies of Uganda),Bill Brochtrup (ABC’s NYPD Blue, Showtime’sShameless), Matt Gottlieb (The Grapes of Wrath at A Noise Within),  Fred Koehler (CBS’s Kate & Allie, HBO’s Oz), Stephen O’Mahoney (Harvey at the Laguna Playhouse), Ray Paolantonio (Animal Farm, Wilhelm Reich in Hell at Son of Semele), Dan Shaked (On the Spectrum at the Fountain) and Jeff Witzke (Blank Theatre Co.’s Book Of Liz) — as they rail against a community that refuses to believe they are in danger, a bureaucracy that refuses to listen and a President who won’t even utter the word AIDS. Dismissed by politicians, frustrated by doctors and fighting with each other, their differences could tear them apart – or change the world. The title of the play comes from a poem by W. H. Auden, the last line of which is this simple truth: “We must love one another or die.”


Matt Gottlieb

Matt Gottlieb

When The Normal Heart premiered at New York’s Public Theater in 1985, Joseph Papp wrote, “In taking a burning social issue and holding it up to public and private scrutiny so that it reverberates with the social and personal implications of that issue, The Normal Heart reveals its origins in the theater of Sophocles, Euripides and Shakespeare. In his moralistic fervor, Larry Kramer is a first cousin to nineteenth century Ibsen and twentieth century Odets and other radical writers of the 1930s. Yet… the element that gives this powerful political play its essence, is love — love holding firm under fire, put to the ultimate test, facing and overcoming our greatest fear: death.”

In 2000, The Normal Heart was named “one of the 100 greatest plays of the 20th century” by the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, and the 2011 Broadway revival earned Tony, Drama League, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Revival of a Play. A movie directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Julia Roberts is slated to premiere on HBO in 2014.

Larry Kramer recently told Playbill, “Now it’s considered a history play. Everything I said in the play has come true.”

Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer is an American playwright and LGBT-rights activist. He is a founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an AIDS service organization, and ACT UP, a direct action AIDS advocacy group. His most acclaimed plays include The Normal Heart (1985) and the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Destiny of Me (1992). His screenplay for Women in Love was nominated for an Academy Award in 1969. He is the author of the novel Faggots (1978), a confrontational portrayal of gay culture, and a critical essay about the AIDS crisis, “1,112 and Counting” (1983). Kramer has also written the plays Sissie’s Scrapbook, A Minor Dark Age and Just Say No, A Play about Farce. His other books are The Tragedy of Today’s Gays and Reports From the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist. He earned his B.A. in English from Yale University. In 2013, he was honored by the Tony Awards with the Isabelle Stevenson Award for significant contribution to humanitarian or charitable causes.

Simon Levy

Simon Levy

Simon Levy was honored with the 2011 Milton Katselas Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Directing credits at the Fountain include Cyrano (LADCC Awards for Direction and Production), A House Not Meantto Stand; Opus (LA Weekly Awards, Best Director); Photograph 51;The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (Backstage Garland Award, Best Direction); The Gimmick with Dael Orlandersmith (Ovation Award-Solo Performance); Master Class (Ovation Award-Best Production); Daisy in theDreamtime (Backstage Garland Awards, Best Production and Direction); Going to St. Ives; The Night of theIguana; Summer & Smoke (Ovation Award-Best Production); The LastTycoon, which he wrote and directed, (5 Back Stage awards, including Best Adaptation and Direction); and Orpheus Descending (6 Drama-Logue awards, including Best Production and Direction). What I Heard About Iraq, which he wrote and directed, was produced worldwide including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Fringe First Award) and the Adelaide Fringe Festival (Fringe Award), was produced by BBC Radio, and received a 30-city UK tour culminating in London. He has written the official stage adaptations of The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon for the Fitzgerald Estate, all published by Dramatists Play Service. 


Set design for The Normal Heart is by Jeff McLaughlin; lighting design is by R. Christopher Stokes; sound design is by Peter Bayne; video design is by Adam Flemming; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; prop design is by Misty Carlisle; the production stage manager is Corey Womack and the assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts.

The Normal Heart  Sept 21 – Nov 3  (323) 663-1525  MORE

Intern Journal: Creating Art with Community

Lowes assisting with auditions for The Normal Heart.

Lowes assisting with auditions for The Normal Heart.

by Lowes Moore III

Hello Fountain Theatre Family!!! It’s Lowes again. I am just ending my 6th week here at the Fountain. My time here has been unbelievable. This summer I’ve done more things than I can wrap my head around. The highlight these past few weeks has been getting to work very closely with the beginnings of the Fountain’s next production, The Normal Heart. Not seen in Los Angeles for almost 20 years. If you do not know the premise of the story I’ll give it to you in a nutshell from our website:

“The iconic American play about a nation in denial. THE NORMAL HEART unfolds like a real-life political thriller—as a tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence. A quarter-century after it was written, this outrageous, unflinching, and totally unforgettable look at the sexual politics of New York during the AIDS crisis remains one of the theatre’s most powerful evenings ever. First produced by Joseph Papp at New York’s Public Theater, the play was a critical sensation and a seminal moment in theater history. The play was so ahead of its time that many of the core issues it addresses – including gay marriage, a broken healthcare system and, of course, AIDS – are just as relevant today as they were when it first premiered.”

I have read the play about 5 times now and each time something new unravels. On paper the play is so powerful.  Imagine what it is going to do on the stage. I have had the privilege of being the casting monitor for the audition process. I have loved every second working with Simon Levy (director) and Raul Staggs (casting director). I get to be around the atmosphere without any stress of auditioning. I can definitely get used to this.

An actor auditions.

An actor auditions for ‘The Normal Heart’.

On another note, I have been spending a lot of time doing research online and reaching out to various communities. For the extension of Heart Song, I have contacted many Jewish organizations and they have been very excited to come to see the show.

 I have also been doing the same kind of community engagement for The Normal Heart. Many LGBTQ organizations have missions similar to the parts taken from the LA Gay & Lesbian center below.

To empower people to lead full and rewarding lives without limits based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

To heal the damage caused by discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, by providing the highest quality health and social services to residents of Los Angeles County in need.

To advocate full access and equality for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

To lead through example, by living our values, sharing our expertise, and celebrating the full diversity of our lives, families, and communities.

The play was so ahead of its time when it was first produced that many of the core issues it addresses – including gay marriage, a broken healthcare system and, of course, AIDS – are just as relevant today as they were when it first premiered. It is so important that we continue to keep our community involved in the art. Because without the community there would be no art. 

Summer Reading: Joe Papp and The Public Theater in “Free for All”

Looking for a good book to read this summer about “a life in the theatre”? Here’s one we recommend. Thrilling and entertaining first-person accounts of the passionate cyclone that was Joe Papp, founder of The Public Theatre in NYC.

Heroes without flaws appear only in bad comics and worse books and movies. The giants who seize our attention and embody achievement at its most inspiring are often nearly as troublesome as they are noble, with defects and virtues that can stem from the same deep drives. Joseph Papp, the Brooklyn-born impresario who changed the face of the American theater by founding the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater, is unquestionably a hero of the complicated kind. His story is revisited in rich, rewarding detail in a fat new book, “Free for All: Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told,” written by Kenneth Turan and — what’s this? — yes, Papp himself.

Although he was a man of protean force, even Papp’s admirers might wonder how someone dead 20 years could write a book.  As Turan explains in the introduction, with Papp’s endorsement and collaboration he began conducting interviews for a definitive oral history of the Shakespeare Festival and the Public Thea­ter more than 23 years ago. After a year and a half of research and writing, Turan presented his co-author with a first draft, only to have Papp take unexplained umbrage and summarily kill the project.

Did the 1,100-page opus seem too much like a literary tombstone to the already ailing producer, who had also recently learned that his son had contracted AIDS? (Papp died of prostate cancer in 1991.) Turan never learned. But as disheartening as this reversal was, he confesses that it didn’t exactly dumbfound him. As his more than 160 interviews amply revealed, Papp had a fierce will, a huge heart and a profound sense of loyalty, but also a tendency to turn against friends and collaborators when he felt betrayed, insulted or ill-used. Although he was a better producer than director, he possessed some of the easily inflamed sensitivity of the artists he devoted his life to nurturing.

Emerging from its time capsule today — at a slimmed-down, engrossing 593 pages, and with the assistance of Papp’s widow, Gail Merrifield Papp — the book still thrills with its tale of a historic passage in the American theater told with vividness and intimacy by the artists and administrators involved .

Joseph Papp at the Delacorte Theater construction site in 1961.

Love him or hate him, Papp was a major cultural force in the American Theatre in the second half of the 20th century. His unrelenting fervor and drive is one of the great theater stories ever told. Continue reading